‘The most innovative square mile on the planet’

That is how Boston Consulting Group (BCG) has described Kendall Square, the innovation district in Boston, Massachusetts, where MIT among others are anchored. And so, the question arises: how do you become that? The ‘most innovative square mile on the planet’?

That question made ØICC look towards Boston where we had the honor of talking to Sarah Eusden Gallop, Chair of the Board at Kendall Square Association (KSA). Find out what, according to Sarah, it is that makes Kendall Square stand out. What challenges they have encountered in the process and still wrestle with. And learn about the aspirations of one of the world’s most well developed innovation districts.

The development of Kendall Square

According to Sarah, innovation and creativity has always been part of the DNA at Kendall Square, even before it was called an innovation district, thanks to the activities surrounding MIT. In 2009, however, it was clear that to realize the full potential of Kendall Square, actors across the district had to more formally connect. With support from MIT, KSA was founded, and Kendall Square got the necessary networking asset that Bruce Katz, one of the world’s renowned experts on innovation districts, says is required for an area to become an innovation district.

Unique qualities

Kendall Square is extremely dense with 66,000 people and more than 10,000 companies gathered on very little space, also counting tech giants like Microsoft, Google, and Facebook. It is an area characterized by entrepreneurial activity, where universities and companies work closely together and translate science into new business. ’That’s why BCG has called it the most innovative square mile on the planet’, Sarah explains.

Today, Kendall Square represents more than 30 sectors where the dominant ones are tech, life science, and professional services. ’In the past, innovation took place mostly within individual sectors, but now organizations are actively collaborating across industry boundaries’.

Challenges and success factors

From outside, everything appears seamless at Kendall Square. And yes, things are going well! But, as Sarah revealed, two challenges prevail. One is about the strong company values. ‘ Some of the companies have been extremely successful at creating very supportive organizational cultures, including in-house amenities and services, which tend to foster a more inward-looking orientation . This can prevent employees from going out into the district and naturally interacting with the area. This is something we still wrestle with.’

The other challenge is about the place-making quality of Kendall Square. ‘It needs to feel like an exciting place! Place-making is critical, and Kendall Square hasn’t been as good at this, until recently. The community is also starting to build more residential buildings which will help make Kendall Square feel more authentic and vibrant with more people living there.’

Kendall Square 20 years from now – visions for the future

20 years from now, where do you envision Kendall Square? It took Sarah just about a second to think, before she with excitement answered. ‘We dream of creating a vibrant destination and neighborhood where people will live, work, play, and meet with other people – all day. It will be a

thriving environment for people and organizations as they work to advance their research and innovation endeavors. It will be an open place where everyone will feel welcome and inspired. Do you want to learn more about Kendall Square? Click here.

 

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